Prose as spare as Robert Parker’s at his best

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This is one of those annoying books that leaves you wrestling with your own conscience, because you spend most of it rooting for the wrong guys. Detective Constable Max Wolfe watches as the judge at the Old Bailey gives three yobs a slap on the wrist for kicking a man to death on his own doorstep. It doesn’t help that he’s sitting next to the wife and children of the dead man.

The three youths in the dock smirked at me before they were taken down.
I had seen that look before.
Too many times.
It was the look of someone who knows they just got away with murder.

Back at the office, along with his colleagues Max watches a video of a gang of four hanging a taxi driver who was a member of a group of men who kidnapped and raped girls. The body is found near Tyburn, one of the traditional hanging grounds of London. Two more executions are uploaded to YouTube, one of a man who ran down a child in his car and another who mugged an elderly veteran for drug money. Since justice cannot be found in the hands of the law, the Hanging Club has taken it into their own. Parsons challenges you to decide if Max should apprehend the Hanging Club or offer to hold their coats while they get to work. Or you do until they kidnap Max, who is in their eyes equally complicit in protecting the guilty by trying to hunt them down.

Prose as spare as Robert Parker’s at his best and enough ambiguity about Max’s own motives to leave you wondering, not to mention a, well, I guess I’d call him a sidekick worthy of Mouse in Walter Moseley’s Easy Rawlins books. I hope we see Jackson again. Just not in the dock.

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